European Council President Charles Michel will run as a candidate for the European parliamentary election in June, he told three Belgian media outlets. A spokesperson for Michel confirmed the announcement to POLITICO.
Michel plans to take up his seat in the European Parliament mid-July if he’s elected, meaning EU leaders will have to agree quickly on a successor for his vacated Council post. If they don’t, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, whose country will take over the rotating presidency of the Council of the EU in July, would lead the meetings — a broker-role normally undertaken by the European Council president.
That scenario — an unchecked Orbán ruling the Council roost for the six months directly after the 2024 European election — is one most of the other 26 leaders of EU countries would be desperate to avoid, given escalating tensions between them and Orbán, for example over the Union’s support for Ukraine and Hungary’s rule of law infractions.
It’s the first time a sitting Council president will be a candidate in a European parliamentary election. Michel would normally have stayed on in the job until the end of November, when the new College of Commissioners would be installed. While Michel’s move is legally kosher, it piles extra pressure on European leaders, as they usually have more time for wheeling and dealing during the great top-job carve up that always comes after the five-yearly EU ballots.
After the parliamentary election is held June 6-9 in all 27 of the EUs countries, European leaders are scheduled to meet on June 17 and again on June 27-28. It will be at these meetings that they are likely to seek to come to an agreement on a replacement for Michel — though the role of Council chief would normally be one that’s part of the protracted horse-trading among political groupings after the election results become clear, and as they seek to divide among themselves the various top EU jobs.
Michel’s announcement comes just ahead of the first congress and New Year’s reception of his party, the Belgian liberals of the Reformist Movement (MR). At that congress on Sunday, party President Georges-Louis Bouchez is expected to give more clarity on who will lead the charge ahead of June 9, when Belgians go to the polls not only for the EU ballot, but also for regional and national elections, as POLITICO reported on Friday.
Michel would not specify whether his decision to run for a seat in the Parliament means he would be interested in other top jobs, such as becoming the lead candidate for the European liberals, the bloc’s third-largest political camp, for the European Commission presidency, or whether he wants to succeed Didier Reynders — who is also from MR — as Belgium’s EU commissioner.